This is how the season falls apart for the Washington’s men’s basketball team.
Not from a near upset to cross-city rival Seattle University, which ran with the Huskies for more than a half before UW put away the Redhawks for an 88-78 victory in the season opener.
But from long-term injuries that severely depletes its front line with a daunting nonconference schedule looming.
Washington entered Sunday night’s game in front of 6,704 at Alaska Airlines Arena without fifth-year senior forward Perris Blackwell (concussion) and junior reserve forward Desmond Simmons (right knee), who isn’t expected to return until mid-December at the earliest.
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Less than 90 seconds into the game, the Huskies lost their other starting forward, Jernard Jarreau, who suffered a right knee injury and didn’t return.
Washington (1-0) tweaked its offense, and moved 6-foot-5 guard C.J. Wilcox to small forward to start the season with a win.
“We can overcome adversity,” said Wilcox, who finished with 22 points, seven rebounds and four assists. “We already had Perris out. We had Dez out. And then Jernard going out early. We had to pull together to see what we were made of.”
The Huskies also relied on excellent free-throw shooting (33 of 41) and a diversified attack featuring sophomore guard Andrew Andrews, who poured in a career-high 21 points.
Freshman guard Darin Johnson had 16 points and seven rebounds and junior-college transfer Mike Anderson finished with 12 points and eight rebounds. Shawn Kemp Jr. had 10 points.
“I don’t think people will understand just how big of a win this was for us and just how gutsy and how much of a character this win was,” coach Lorenzo Romar said. “We’ve had big games on big stages in the past and have come through.
“But in terms of pulling a game out when the chips were really down — our guys never got down on themselves — this is one of the more special wins for me as head coach since I’ve been here.”
Sunday’s game marked the 60th anniversary in the neighborhood rivalry that dates to 1953. Washington has won nine straight games over SU and improved to 25-4 in the series.
After the game, the Huskies were more concerned with Jarreau, who will receive an MRI exam Monday.
The injury occurred on an seemingly innocent play. He stripped SU point guard Isiah Umipig in the open court and raced in for a layup when he landed awkwardly while Umipig provided tight defense.
Umipig picked up a flagrant foul while Jarreau pounded his fist on the floor and writhed in pain for a few minutes.
The 6-10 sophomore limped off the court with the assistance of a teammate and trainer, which created a huge hole in the lineup.
Without its starting frontcourt, Washington turned to Kemp, who is recovering from an unspecified illness, and transfer Gilles Dierickx, who made his UW debut after sitting out last season.
The Huskies also used a four-guard lineup that prominently featured Anderson, a 6-6 guard who played at Moberly Area (Mo.) Community College the past two years.
It took Washington several minutes to adjust without Jarreau, who starred in last Sunday’s exhibition win over Central Washington.
Seattle U used a 15-2 run to take a 28-18 lead with 6:15 left in the first half.
The Huskies answered with a big run of their own. Wilcox capped a 24-5 run with a three-pointer that gave them a 42-33 lead at halftime.
The Redhawks pulled even early in the second half, but never led.
Umipig led Seattle U (0-1) with 22 points while Clarence Trent had 18 and Deshaun Sunderhaus 11.
Percy Allen: 206-464-2278 or firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter @percyallen.